Does technology have anything to do with business? There are a lot of technology experts that feel their only job is keeping the technology running. Among many technologists there is very little understanding of how the technology they are managing is benefiting or hurting the organization. The job of the modern network architect is to integrate the technology with the corporate culture in a way that expands the productivity and hence the profitability of the organization. Understanding this means stepping away from the technology and looking hard at the company’s vision, strategy, goals and tactics. As a Seattle IT Consultant I see this problem all the time.
To understand the CEO of any organization means understanding strategy vs tactics. C-Level executives are trying to think strategically and the rest of us are thinking tactically. Strategically the C-level executive creates the long term goal. The tactical thinker is thinking about how to accomplish that goal. The tactical thinker doesn’t care about the reason for the long term goal or objective. The tactical thinker is only thinking how to I accomplish the goal.
What if the goal was the wrong goal? The tactical thinker doesn’t care. The Strategic thinker does care about the long term goal. When that long term goal is accomplished, the strategic thinker doesn’t care how about how much work it took to get there. The strategic thinker just wants to get there.
In his article “Why Good Strategic PLANS and PROCESS Matter“, Earl Bell describes the process of developing a strategic plan. C-level manager define the gap between where the company wants to be today and where they want to be in the future. Each long term strategic goal is broken down into a series of sub-goals or milestones. Tactical leaders are assigned the task of accomplishing each milestone. The tactical leader takes a milestone and builds a tactical plan.
As technologists we are often assigned steps or tasks that accomplish a milestone. By the time these tactical steps/tasks are assigned to the technologist the organizational vision has been lost. Often a technician is asked, “…can you do this?” The technician says yes. If the answer is yes the task is assigned. Sometimes the tactic accomplishes the task, but at the expense of the strategic goal.
In his book “CREATING A COLLABORATIVE ENTERPRISE“, Robert Nitschke describes collaboration as a process that requires cooperation, communication and commitment. In the above situation despite cooperation and commitment to the project, the project failed because communication with the technical team was not encouraged.
If the questions had been stated, “…what is the best way to accomplish our long term goal?” The technician could have prepared a better answer. Imagine asking is it possible to walk from Seattle to New York? Well of course it’s possible. Yet if the question where asked, “What is the fastest way to get to New York from Seattle?” The answer might be riding a bike, taking a bus, driving a car or flying a plane. The questioner could decide which of these options best fit the business requirements of the situation.
In the title I implied that the modern network architect could impress the CEO. When the question is asked of the technical architect, “…can you do this?” Instead of saying yes, push back with the question, “Why?” Earl Bell might describe this as part of a “bottom up” up approach. Robert Nitschke might describe this as building collaboration through communication.
What I’ve found is that most management teams are really not sure how to include the technologist in the long term planning of a project. By the same token the technologist is focused on the tactics of implementing technology and has very little understanding of the business strategy. By asking the question, “why?”, the technology architect moves from a tactical to a strategic advisor to the C-level executive team. With strategic advice the C-Level management team can make better strategic decisions for the organization. Advice that helps make better strategic decisions always impresses the CEO.